by Jeff Gutridge
In what is believed to be the first suspension in the country for a positive test for the drug benzylpiperazine, New England trainer Tammi Piermarini was suspended Tuesday until Jan. 10, 2002. The Suffolk Downs board of stewards also fined her $500 and took away first-place purse money won by Dixie Draw Oct. 6 at the Masschusetts track.
The length of suspension is the maximum penalty allowed by the board of stewards for a Class 1 drug as categorized by the Association of Racing Commissioners International.
"We have never seen this drug before," said William Keen, chief steward for the Massachusetts Racing Commission. "We spoke to several other states, and this drug is new to the horse industry."
Since Oct. 6, a one horse at Rockingham Park in New Hampshire, and one at Colonial Downs in Virginia, have reportedly tested positive for benzylpiperazine, Keen said. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports that the substance is similar to the party drug "ecstacy," and that drugs categorized as "piperazines" have been used to rid bowels of parasitic worms.
"Our chemist has described it as an amphetamine that stimulates the central nervous system," Keen said. "It is found on the street and popular with some young adults, but we have never seen it in a horse. We imposed the maximum penalty we could under (RCI) guidelines, but we also referred the matter to the state racing commission (which could impose additional penalties)."
At a hearing before the stewards the week of Nov. 5, John Piermarini, the trainer's husband, testified that he purchased the drug through a Canadian Web site hat described it as a bronchodilator.
Tammi Piermarini, a former jockey who began training last year, is also expected to face the New Hampshire Pari-mutuel Commission because four of her horses tested positive for banned substances following races at Rockingham during the summer meet.
In addition, trainer Robert Raymond will also go before the New Hampshire commission because one of his horses, Nettap, tested positive for benzoylyecgronine, a metabolite of cocaine, following a second-place finish at Rockingham Sept. 23.
"I don't have anything to do with cocaine," Raymond said. "It has to be (environmental) contamination."